Paper masks

The oriental origin of paper

The history of paper.

Often it is the simple things that we take for granted that make all of the difference to history, and one of them is paper. How many sheets containing written information are on your desk, in your house or even in your bag?  Then there is all of the other uses we put paper to in our lives, cleaning, ticketing, containing, wrapping; the list (on paper of course) is nearly endless.  It is one of the inventions that made its way from China to the West via the amazing conduit of ideas, ideal and objects:  The Silk Road.

In the ancient and medieval world the paperless office was a real thing. Papyrus, as used by the ancient Egyptians, was nearly paper…sort of! The big problem with papyrus is that it is fragile, and the older it gets the more fragile it becomes, making it unsuited for long term storage of writings, which is presumably why it never replaced parchment in Europe. Other cultures used strips of bamboo or timber (China, India), bark (Russia and Meso-America) …

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Abbey Museum Jewellery

How Ornaments Make us Human

On Saturday 4th August Dr Michelle Langley entertained thirty Museum Friends and their guests with her fascinating presentation on jewellery – “bling” – over the millennia. Dr Langley is the DECRA (Discovery Early Career Researcher Award) Research Fellow at Griffith University; her special area of study is Sulawesi, Timor-Leste and Australia.

Dr Langley’s illustrated presentation described how humans have used personal ornamentation as far back as Neanderthal times and how this could be shown as a manner of differentiating humans from animals. She explained how cave paintings depicted people with various types of ornamentation and how this archaeological evidence provides insights into how some of these ornaments were made.

In addition to the pictorial evidence there is a wealth of recently discovered archaeological evidence of ornamentation found in burials and sites of early human occupation, especially in Indonesia, Timor-Leste and Australia. Analysis of these recent discoveries is showing that the belief in the capacity of our ancestors for language, art, complex technologies and social behaviour only developed after they reached Europe approximately 40,000 years ago is incorrect. …

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Abbey Museum Musketeer stained glass

Musketeer Makeover

After completing the fundraising for the conservation of the medieval and Victorian Stained glass in the Abbey Church and a window of one of the Three Magi above the door to the Abbey Museum, focus has turned to fundraising for the conservation of smaller, but still significant, panels that are currently in the reserve collection.

The first of these is a small but beautifully made panel depicting a Musketeer. This panel dates to the 17th century and probably comes from southern Germany.  I am very happy to announce that funds have now been raised for this window’s conservation. Thank you to everyone who generously donated towards this project or attended one of our special fundraising Trivia Nights dedicated to the stained glass conservation program.

Of course, the most celebrated and romanticised musketeers in history were the famous quartet immortalised by French author Alexandre Dumas whose swashbuckling novel in 1844 was set in the dangerous times for the scheming Cardinal Richelieu and King Louis XIII.

Who were the Musketeers?

Technically, any soldiers armed with …

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Abbey Museum medieval lamentation

The ‘Lamentation of Christ’ sculpture is revealed

In July, the Museum celebrated a very special occasion with the addition of a spectacular piece to the Abbey Museum collection.  Now firmly in its final home, this sculpture of the Lamentation of Christ places the Abbey Museum as a world-leader in its collection exhibits, bringing Art that would normally only be found in much larger city-funded museums to regional Australia.   The magnificently carved limestone frieze depicting an episode from Christ’s Passion, the Lamentation, dates from the middle ages, weighs close to half a tonne and like all of the Abbey collection pieces, has an incredible story and journey to tell about how it came to it’s rightful resting place in the Abbey Museum’s Manuscript Gallery.

Rejoicing the Lamentation

From subject alone, this sculpture merits reverence as a magnificent art piece depicting the Passion of Christ.  We see the Three Marys anointing the body of the crucified Christ,  watched by two others,  Joseph of Arimathea – whose tomb Jesus’ body occupied – and Nicodemus –  a man who came down from the tree he was hiding in to follow Jesus …

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Donor King Window in Abbey Museum collection

The “Donor King” has a Name

Visitors to the Abbey Museum may have noticed a stained glass window that was once above the main door has been removed. I can assure you that this is not permanent but just part of the ongoing conservation program of our stained glass windows. This panel depicts a crowned figure holding a covered cup in one hand and a sceptre in the other.  These attributes indicate that it is a king although the identity of the figure was unknown; the catalogue simply records it as “The Donor King” .  However, during conservation of the window new evidence has come to light which is very exciting.  Research has revealed that it was probably part of a much larger window depicting the three Magi (the Three Wise Men or Kings as they are also known) from the Biblical story of the Nativity of Christ.  The window has been badly damaged and conserved a number of times during its history, and sadly the quality of the later work does no justice to the exquisite quality of the original window. Not only is …

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Abbey Museum Trivia Night May

ABBEY TRIVIA NIGHT

The next Abbey Trivia Night will be held on 19th May at the Abbey Hall.  Registration from 6pm; questions begin at 6.30pm. This is a fund-raising evening of fun for all the family.

Cost $15 per adult; school aged children – free!

Enjoy a delicious light supper, lucky door prizes and raffles.

All welcome – come with a group or join a group on the night!

Enjoy questions on a  wide variety of subjects  – movies, children’s books, dates, capital cities, Australian politics, famous locations, Gilbert and Sullivan, weights and measures and food and drink!

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Union Jack flag

The Origin of the Union Jack Flag

The origin of the Union Jack flag

Whilst researching the March saints for a Tabula story, I was diverted into a story about the flag known as the Union Jack. The Union Jack consists of the flag devices of three of the four patron saints of the countries which comprise Great Britain. The feast days of two of these patron saints occur during the month of March and there is another in April. Not only is the Union Jack the official flag of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, it also appears included on 31 other flags around the world, including Australia, New Zealand and six flags of the Australian States.

The central feature of the flag is the cross of St George, patron saint of England; behind it is the cross of St Andrew representing Scotland and the cross of St Patrick representing Northern Ireland.  Unluckily for the Welsh, the fourth patron saint, St David of Wales, is not depicted on the Union Jack at all!

St David’s feast day is celebrated on 1st March.  This is considered to be …

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April Fools Day at the Abbey Museum

The Story Behind April Fool’s Day

April Fool’s History

Everyone enjoys a good joke, (whether practical or otherwise) and April 1st or April Fool’s Day is recognised almost universally as the day on which pranks are played. They may be close to home such as sending your brother to find a can of elbow grease so you can shine your shoes or as widely reported as the BBC Panorama report on 1 April 1957 about the spaghetti harvest in Switzerland which had many people asking where they could obtain spaghetti plants themselves.

There are a number of theories about the origin of April 1 being celebrated as April Fool’s Day. The most widely accepted is that it goes back to when the western world adopted the Gregorian calendar in place of the Julian calendar during the 1500s. Under the Julian calendar the year began on March 25; festivals marking the start of the New Year were celebrated on the first day of April as March 25th fell during Holy Week. When the Gregorian calendar was adopted, New Year moved to 1 January. The theory goes …

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New Acquisition Roman Steelyard

New Addition to the Abbey Museum’s Collection

An Unusual Object in our Collection – The Roman Balance

One of the latest additions to our ever-growing collection is an unusual-looking metal device that one has to wonder about. Mind boggling – yes, but in fact this implement has a very practical application. Then, what does it do?  What we have here is a Roman Steelyard, or Roman Balance, dated between the late 2nd and 5th centuries. Although it looks like some sort of torture device, it had a very useful and celebrated function; namely for weighing trade goods.

“Is it some sort of torture device?” – Museum Staff Member.

You might now ask how people used this object.  Our balance is made of iron and features two lead weights that hang from iron bars. The balance would hang from the ceiling by the upper hook and trade goods suspended by the hooks. The large weight would slide up and down the balance bar until the bar became horizontal. The weight would be calculated by how far the weight was across the bar. Chiselled into the bar at …

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Fundraising for Abbey Museum

Santa’s Helpers Fundraising for Museum

“This may be too difficult for you…”  This is often the opening comment by a person who is not sure whether we can wrap a gift for them. Invariably the response is “not too difficult –maybe a challenge”.

In the fortnight leading up to Christmas 2017 volunteers operated the gift wrapping tables outside Target in the Bribie Island shopping centre fundraising for the Abbey Museum. Situated right alongside Santa’s grotto we had a great opportunity to see merchandising in action especially noting which appeared to be the most popular gifts for 2017. Many children lined up to meet Santa and have their photo taken, whether they wanted to or not! Some so tiny they will never remember it…

Fundraising under Wraps

Gift wrapping is a very social occasion and, in the experience of this writer, the vast majority of people are very pleased to offer a donation (in some cases, very generous) to have an onerous task taken off their hands. Most parcels were fairly straight-forward and could be wrapped and decorated with a ribbon or bow in a minute …

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